Chicago Bears (3-1) at Jacksonville Jaguars (1-3)
Blaine Gabbert doesn’t seem noticeably improved over last year. Since a solid showing in the opener, he’s 40 of 74 for 394 yards, 3 touchdowns, and 1 interception. He’s protecting the ball and not turning it over, but this offense simply has no explosion to it unless Maurice Jones-Drew is breaking off a bunch of big runs. Plus, turnovers are inconsistent on a week to week basis, so this offense, which ranks dead last in scoring, could get worse in the future. A tough matchup against Chicago is a very possible place for that to start.
Gabbert’s last 3 games have been especially poor. Against Houston, he had as many attempts as yards midway through the 3rd quarter and finished 7-19 for 53 yards. In a win in Indianapolis, he was 9 of 20 for 75 yards, up until an 80 yard touchdown to Cecil Shorts, in which the receiver did most of the work. Shorts and a huge day by Maurice Jones-Drew are the two reasons they won that game against the lowly Colts. Not Gabbert.
Last week, Cincinnati was missing their top 4 cornerbacks with injuries and using Terence Newman, Adam Jones, and Chris Crocker at cornerback. They stacked the box to stop MJD and Gabbert still went just 23 of 34 for 186 yards, 1 touchdown, and 1 interception. He had all of his offensive linemen healthy in that one, so there was no excuse.
He’s absolutely horrible and the Jaguars might be the worst team in the league. Cleveland may be 0-4, but they’ve been competitive in all 4 games, while Jacksonville didn’t even look that impressive in their win. It’s going to be hard to pick them as anything less than touchdown underdogs going forward. Daryl Smith, their best defensive player arguably, is once again out for this one.
Meanwhile, Chicago has been exactly average this season, if you believe their yards per play differential. In spite of that, this line, -5, is equal to the “real” line, because of how poor Jacksonville has been in that area, ranking 31st, so there’s no line value with Jacksonville. If you believe Chicago is truly an average team, then there’s no line value with Chicago either, but I would argue they aren’t. You do need to add a human element to any calculation of any “real” line.
With the exception of their horrific showing in Green Bay week 2, they have won the yards per play battle in 3 of their 4 games. That week 2 performance is really skewing things and I think that’s not indicative of this team’s level of ability. Think about it, at least one team has completely shit the bed like that in all 4 Thursday Night games, even good teams. Arizona lost by 14 to St. Louis this week, despite coming in at 4-0. Carolina got destroyed by the Giants, even though they were favored. Baltimore, meanwhile, barely defeated Cleveland at home.
3 days is not enough time to prepare, which is why Thursday Night games always suck (blame Roger Goodell, as always), and I don’t really blame the Bears for being that unprepared, so I kind of disregard what happened in that game for Chicago. Aside from that, this team is a well above average team that has won every game by at least 16 points, including an impressive showing in Dallas last Monday. Jay Cutler, as much criticism as he takes, is 17-8 in the regular season with the Bears over the last 2 years. They’re also getting Matt Forte back closer to 100%, if not 100% this week, after he was limited on Monday Night, so I do think there’s line value with Chicago when you add a human element to the formulaic analysis.
Speaking of that win in Dallas on Monday Night, teams are 47-32 ATS since 2002 off a MNF win over 14 or more. That trend is even more powerful when the win was by 21 or more, going 28-11 ATS. I know the Bears didn’t win by 21, but they were leading by 24 until a late garbage time drive by the Cowboys when they had already given up and put in Kyle Orton. The logic is that teams that get a blowout victory on MNF typically carry that into the next week and for all intents and purposes Chicago DID blow out Dallas.
The public is all over the Bears, but I’m still going to take them in this one. Normally I love fading the public, especially on big leans, and this is the biggest public lean of the week, but I like the Bears enough to take them anyway coming off a huge MNF performance. I think we’re getting line value with them and it’s really, really tough to take the Jaguars, even at home, as anything more than touchdown underdogs. We don’t have touchdown protection with the Jaguars, so it’s a small play on the Bears.
Public lean: Chicago (new thing I’m adding, siding with the odds makers on bets is not a bad thing to do since they make so much money, so I’m listing this here to allow readers to “fade” the public, if they so choose, in this example, the odds makers win if Houston covers)
Sharps lean: JAX 11 CHI 8
Final update: Nothing to see here. Still expect a Chicago blowout. Jacksonville is terrible.
Chicago Bears 27 Jacksonville Jaguars 10
Pick against spread: Chicago -5 (-110) 2 units